by Matthew Thompson
I had intended to do an in-depth write-up on the Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta back in December before I got caught up in working on my year-end lists. After having another go at the game during the recent stress test, I thought now was a good time to come back to this topic. So here it goes (I have also embedded some videos of me playing the beta in these posts, so feel free to check them out)!
From a pure mechanical standpoint, this is the best Uncharted has ever been. Part of that is certainly the move to 60 frames per second in multiplayer, but I also think they have found the sweet spot with animation prioritization. It gives us the right amount of player responsiveness, but still delivers some really cool animations – I can’t get enough of the ones for vaulting and sliding over cover for instance. Player movement is one of the reasons I have always loved Uncharted combat so much compared to other third-person shooters, but it feels even smoother here with quicker climbing, better transitions between moves and the tweaks I have mentioned above.
They have also done a great job nailing weapon feedback. They do this neat thing with the dot on your reticle where it tracks where each of your bullets go. This, along with the punchy feel of the guns and great hit feedback on opponents through both sound and animation, does a great job of relaying information to the player about how they are shooting.
One fantastic addition to Uncharted 4’s core gameplay is the new grappling hook. Its effects for traversal should be obvious. You can use it to swing across certain areas of the map which plays perfectly into Uncharted’s focus on fast-paced action and movement, but I love how they have worked it into the combat as well. If you swing above an opponent and hit the square button, you will land on top of them for a one-hit kill (check out the above video to see one in action!). I can’t begin to tell you how satisfying these aerial rope kills are. There is a risk to trying to pull them off, but hitting one feels so good. With the way it marries traversal and combat, the grappling hook is a microcosm of what makes Uncharted multiplayer special and it is a lovely addition to the game.
I’m just not a loadout guy. I still prefer weapon pickup systems in general and feel they are especially good for Uncharted as they promote movement around maps to get power weapons. But as expected loadouts are back for Uncharted 4. The system in place is less like Uncharted 3’s and more like The Last of Us where you allocate points towards different weapons and abilities. While I’m still not crazy about it, particularly its in-game store, I do think it is a step up from Uncharted 3’s setup. Now I am going to run through my thoughts on each of the different categories of things you can include in your loadout.
Base Guns: Here you get one “long” gun (ARs, shotguns, snipers, etc.) and one sidearm. With the way they have balanced them, rifles seemed to dominate with sidearms being relegated to situational uses (when hanging or swinging) or when you run out of ammo with your long gun as opposed to being legitimate main weapon options. Based on my playtime a few weapons separated themselves from the pack as far more useful than the rest: the Mettler, the HS39 and – my personal favorite – the MP34a. At least these three offer slightly different styles of play (the Mettler is a singleshot rifle, the HS39 is a full-auto assault rifle and the MP34a is a submachine gun), but I’d still like to see further balance tweaks to offer more viable options for players and avoid handing advantages for having simply played longer due to the unlock/progression system.
Gear: These are your throwable items like the previous games’ grenades. Unfortunately, not all the new types feel right for this series. Stuff like mines and C4 have no place in Uncharted in my opinion. They discourage movement and promote camping which goes against what Uncharted is. I do like med packs – which work in tandem with the game’s new down/revive system – as an alternative to grenades. Another tweak I think works well is a recharge meter on these items. There was a bit too much grenade spam in earlier outings which this reduces, so it feels like a positive change.
Mysticals: As a guy who likes his competitive multiplayer on the simpler side, these didn’t look like my cup of tea at all when I saw them in Uncharted 4’s multiplayer reveal trailer. In practice though, they seem alright. These are special items you can buy through the in-game store mid-match when you have enough cash and play to the series’ history of supernatural elements. For instance, using the Wrath of El Dorado – my Mystical of choice – will set out a sarcophagus that unleashes spirits to damage nearby players, perfect for breaking up a grouped together team. Then there is the Cintimani Stone which heals teammates in its area of effect or Indra’s eternity which slows enemies in its AOE, along with a few others. These seem like a decent way to spice up the mode without driving me up a wall.
Sidekicks: These I came down on the other side of. Sidekicks are AI buddies you can spawn to help you. These include the Brute – think Uncharted 2’s heavy, gatling gun-toting baddies – which you can set out to fire away on the other team and the Hunter – think Uncharted 2/3’s choker enemies in co-op – that will track down enemies and grab them so you can easily finish them off. This is probably the new addition I like the least. I feel it just takes away from the intense player vs. player battles that this game can deliver. I also enjoy Uncharted MP partly because of its low player count and this ups that, cluttering the battlefield in a way I don’t really care for. The recent stress test toned Sidekicks down to the point where they don’t have much of an effect on the games – though in the hands of a good player, they can still do some damage. But I don’t feel they add anything either and at the very least distract from the core gameplay more than I’d like them to.
Heavy Weapons: Here are your power weapons. Things like RPGs, grenade launchers, light machine guns, and more powerful versions of shotguns and revolvers. Like Mysticals and Sidekicks they can be bought mid-match. The problem with these weapons is that they feel so incredibly weak that they seem like a bad use of in-game cash or loadout points. For instance, buying an RPG gets you one round and it only downs an enemy. It just doesn’t seem worth it especially considering its relatively high cost. The Barok .44 might be the exception in the right hands, but when I finally settled on my go-to loadout, I didn’t bother including a Heavy Weapon. Instead I invested those points in better boosters and saved my in-match cash for a second chance at using my El Dorado and Hunter. If these are to be viable alternatives to Mysticals and Sidekicks, Naughty Dog may need to beef up their power otherwise they may as well not be included.
Boosters: Boosters are pretty much what you’d expect. Basically the kind of perks you’ve seen in a million multiplayer modes. One will help you heal teammates faster. One gives you a bit more health when downed. None stood out as super offensive here like earlier Uncharted games’ Situational Awareness or Fleetfoot though I didn’t explore these as much as I could have. With them and their upgrades unlocking over time, it could certainly play into the inherent imbalances brought on through MP mode progression systems like the one here, but that is something I will have to wait and see on in the full game. Maybe I have just grown numb to the effects of these.
That will do it for Part 1. I will be back later this week with a post talking about the maps, The Last of Us’ influence on the game plus a few more odds and ends as well as my final thoughts on the Uncharted 4 beta. Thanks for reading!